Fri. Nov 22nd, 2019

The vertigo of playing on the net

Make your game, gentlemen … by clicking! The digitalization of the economy has reached the gaming sector, a playful and economic activity that dates back to 2000 BC. The Babylonians, Etruscans, Egyptians, Chinese, Pre-Columbian Indians, Greeks, Romans, among others, practiced different games of chance, which were considered in ancient times one of the main hobbies of the upper class.

Today, thanks to technology, it is already a massive habit. A study by the consulting firm H2 Gambling Capital ensures that the online gaming sector in the world will continue to grow in the coming years, from 45,000 million euros in 2018 to close to 70,000 million in 2023. The factors behind this rise are the Continuous increase in mobile use and penetration, improved connectivity between consumers and openings in regulation in some countries that are closed today.

Technology allows players to participate more intuitively and more compulsively

According to data from the General Directorate of Game Management, in Spain, six out of ten citizens have ever played with money. The activity has become popular in the youngest population, especially in sports betting, and to a lesser extent, poker and bingo and casino.

There are almost one million active clients on authorized gaming websites. This digital modality already represented 7.3% of the total gaming sector in Spain in 2018. This means that in the last four years, its weight has tripled. The real online game, which is equivalent to the amounts deposited by the customers minus the prizes – it is the indicator that defines the amount actually spent by the customers – already exceeds 720 million euros, according to the latest edition of the Game Yearbook in Spain

Thanks to the internet, for example, it is possible to bet on the outcome of a football match instantly with one click or play a poker game with another opponent for Europe. To get an idea, the succession of bets and hands in games already amounts to almost 18,000 million euros, which means that every euro played online is used almost seven times. And more than half of the game is based on sports betting.

José Antonio Gómez Yáñez, Professor of Sociology at Carlos III University and director of the study, argues that the game in the digital world has found its natural environment. “The format allows the player to show others that he knows about the matter, for example of a certain sport. This is his main motivation to play, rather than earn money, ”he says. And of course, showing many people that they have knowledge is a formidable incentive.

Another aspect behind the growth of online gaming is the social aspect. A good example of this is poker. Until recently, Spain was a closed market, but liquidity shared with France and Portugal has just been introduced, with which the bets with (virtual) cards have extended, from 60 million euros in 2017 to 81 million from last year. “The online game is essentially a relationship game, because it generates global friendships,” says Yánez.

Advertising investment and sponsorship is the main communication tool of these companies, since these platforms (there are up to 81 authorized operators in Spain) lack commercial networks or physical stores. In addition, customer loyalty is low and ads serve to build loyalty, otherwise customers have no problem jumping from one place to another. This year, promotional spending is on its way to breaking the 300 million euro barrier, more than three times the budget allocated by the state-managed lotteries in this area.

However, the pressures of public opinion, alarmed by the risks of gambling, will most likely change the regulation of this thriving sector. There is a project in Spain to limit advertising, both in slots and on media, especially the most aggressive, such as that carried out in the middle of the matches with the support of public figures.

The recent study on addictions of the Ministry of Health recognizes that 3.5% of the population has played money online in the last twelve months but that the maximum amount played in a single day moves on a fork of between 6 and 30 euros. According to their calculations, only 0.4% of the population could be classified as problematic players and only 0.3% would present possible disorders.

However, a report by the Catalan Association of Social Addictions (Acencas) is more alarmist. The median age of the player is 28 years and it takes four years to develop addictions. "These types of players bet more money, dedicate more hours and accumulate more debts than those who use traditional slots." Its president, Francesc Perendreu, argues that in online betting it is very common for "professionalism fantasies that make you believe that you can earn a living."

According to Yánez, Spain has a peculiarity: the population is more socialized in the lottery, which is managed by the State, than in bets, as is the case in the United Kingdom. And the studies certify that in these cases, like Spanish, it is easier to lose control at the time of betting than buying a tenth. Without forgetting that on average, 100 euros of online bets, in prizes you receive, at best, about 97. You always end up losing. This is how the business works.

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